Life Sciences Sector Skill Development Council contributes towards combating COVID-19

Ranjit Madan, CEO, Life Sciences Sector Skill Development Council

Ranjit Madan, CEO, LSSSDC

In this article, Mr. Ranjit Madan, CEO, Life Sciences Sector Skill Development Council (LSSSDC), shares the steps taken by LSSSDC in contributing towards combating COVID-19 pandemic. LSSSDC has also come up with a six-point agenda to fight the virus. Read on to know more.

Life Sciences sector (Pharma, Bio-Pharma, and Clinical Research) is one of the five highest priority sectors of NITI Aayog. The sector currently employs around nine lakh people in the workforce in around 8,000 active manufacturing units, clustered in about a dozen locations. Exhibiting double-digit growth, 50% of its current revenue i.e., $38 billion is derived from exports. In fact, India is regarded as ‘Pharmacy to the World’, having an 11% share in volume in the global market.

Life Sciences Sector Skill Development Council contributes towards combating COVID-19Alongside others, this critical sector too is afflicted with an acute shortage of skilled workforce. To address this, the Life Sciences Sector Skill Development Council (LSSSDC) was established in 2014 by NSDC in co-operation with CII and Dr. Satish Reddy (Chairman Dr. Reddy’s Lab) as its Chairman.

Thrust has been laid upon on three buckets of activities:

  • Organising various skilling programs for youth at school and college level for the different entry-level positions as per Industry-defined/ validated standards
  • Triggering ‘Apprenticeship’
  • Assessing and certifying currently employed workforce as per Industry standards, under the Government’s ‘Recognition of Prior Learning’ (RPL) program

LSSSDC forged a close connection with the Industry. Recently, an agreement has been reached with the  Pharmacy Council of India (PCI), wherein, starting from the coming academic year, select skilling modules will be introduced as electives in the final year, with scores to count in the final marks. Alongside, students in Pharma colleges or Universities will be encouraged to take up apprenticeships. All the steps are taken in the view of ‘skill advancement’. The Council is also working closely with DBT, to boost the number of skilled workforce for the crucial and fast-growing Biotechnology sector. Finally, several prominent Pharma companies such as Zydus, Macleods, Granules have joined hands with LSSSDC to set up ‘Centres of Excellence’ in some of the major clusters.

Pharma companies maximise the capacity to meet the global demand

Pharma is one of the sectors, where demand has been stretched during the current Pandemic. Since India is dependent on China for a high percentage of APIs (Active Pharma Ingredients), a sharp rise in price and shrinking of the supply chain, has led to jostling Indian API producers into finding short- and longer-term measures to raise capacity and minimise dependence on low priced Chinese imports.

The latest decision to lift exports in certain categories of medicines (e.g. Hydroxy Chloroquine, HCQ) that could be useful in tackling COVID-19 has led specific producers to maximise and raise capacity, to meet the global demand. Finally, alongside similar activity in the world’s leading Pharma companies, select Indian Pharma and Bio-Pharma Players too are working on possible vaccines/solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Related Article: Life Sciences Sector Skill Development Council (LSSSDC) takes the lead in building a skilling ecosystem in the Pharmaceutical industry – Read More:

Post lockdown, we can expect this play-out to continue, with Bulk Drug Manufacturers going flat out to maximize the output of APIs. Companies involved in manufacturing medicines such as HCQ, producing to capacity, and firms with R&D base continue to put emphasis on research and to tie up with any overseas entities that may be the first ones to find a suitable vaccine.

We also believe that companies may wish to supplement the workforce in fields like Medical Sales as representatives and the Supply Chain personnel, so that certain drug-related knowledge and medicines can be spread to far-flung areas, as soon as the situation permits. In the interim, Tele sales activity may get a boost. Overall, Make in India coupled with companies reviewing their China strategy, Ayushman Bharat, recently announced API and medical device package, and Biotechnology cluster initiatives would be impacting growth in this sector positively.

In this backdrop, LSSSDC has laid out a six-point agenda to combat COVID-19 Pandemic:

1) Explore E-platforms leveraging technology at each stage of skilling chain, useful not only in the current social distancing context but also post lockdown. This will boost the scale and speed of skilling.

2) Since an increased demand for apprentices and workforce may be expected, the Council will be taking all possible steps to meet that. In particular, LSSSDC is attaching great importance to being a strong partner to companies such as Zydus and IPCA, who are currently at the forefront of a global war against COVID-19. Special projects involving Industry in ‘Recruit, Train, deploy’ model will also be launched.

3) Explore and launch special projects in MSME Pharma Industry clusters for upskilling, with the support from NSDC. Currently, no funding means are available to address skill shortfalls in this crucial industry segment.

4) LSSSDC has recently been approached by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) with whom it is working very closely, to take on the entire spectrum of Bio-Technology Skill Development activity. This will be leading to a greater convergence and synergy in all skilling activity in this vital spectrum.

5) Working even more closely with BDMA (Bulk Drug Manufacturers Association) to support ramping up bulk drug capacity, to minimize dependence on China for APIs. Plans are afoot to involve BDMA directly in skilling and setting up a COE in Hyderabad (the nerve center of Bulk Drugs) focused on the needs of this segment.

6) Conducting workshops for manufacturing, quality, and engineering professionals for boosting GMP awareness, environment, health and safety guidelines, and cleaning validations. This will further strengthen the sector and better position it for any future such Pandemics.

In short, LSSSDC is already and actively helping the Life Sciences sector, to find itself as well-positioned to further support this vital sector in the ongoing battle with COVID-19.

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